beowulf penguin guide - A TEACHERS GUIDE TO THE SIGNET...

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The Psychology of Women
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Chapter 2 / Exercise 4
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S E R I E S E D I T O R S :W. GEIGER ELLIS, ED.D., UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA, EMERITUSandARTHEA J. S. REED, PH.D., UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, RETIREDA T E A C H E R ’ S G U I D E T O T H E S I G N E T C L A S S I C E D I T I O N O FBEOWULFBy DANA HUFF
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Chapter 2 / Exercise 4
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Matlin
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I N T R O D U C T I O NBeowulf ’s origins are mysterious. While we do not know the identity of the author, and we are unsure of its precise dateof composition, most scholars believe it was composed by a single Christian author for a Christian audience in Anglo-Saxon England anywhere from the eighth to eleventh century. Beowulf was composed in the oral poetic tradition. Whetherit was originally written or oral is not known. The poem, filled with biblical allusions to the Old Testament, is alsoinfluenced by Germanic oral tradition and Old Norse myth and legend.Beowulf is well suited for upper-grade high school students of all abilities. Adolescent readers will enjoy its action andadventure. Television shows, such as Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules, and movies like The 13th Warrior (based onMichael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead), have helped pique student interest in stories of feudal heroes.Most upper-grade high school students previously have been introduced to epic poetry and its related concept of the epichero in such works as The Odyssey. Lower-ability students should be able to read and understand Beowulf with the help ofplot summaries and class discussions. All students will benefit from learning about Anglo-Saxon customs and valuesthrough the study of this early poem in a modern European language.This teaching guide is organized in three sections presenting suggestions to be used before Beowulf is read, while it is being read,and after the reading is completed. Following these sections are a Bibliography and a Webliography for pursuing further study.B E F O R E R E A D I N GBefore reading Beowulf students should review the definitions of epic poetry (a long, narrative poem written in an elevatedstyle which celebrates the deeds of a legendary hero or god) and epic hero (superhuman hero or god of an epic). It maybe helpful to discuss epics that the students have previously read, such as The Odyssey.Beowulf is noted especially for two literary devices — alliteration and kenning. Upper-grade high school students should befamiliar with alliteration, or the repetition of similar sounds, especially the initial consonant sound of a word or of a stressedsyllable, such as “Shild’s strong son” (23, line 19). Alliteration is a literary device that was used frequently by Anglo-Saxons,and Burton Raffel, the translator of the Signet Classic edition, has preserved as much of the alliteration as possible.Students should also be introduced to the Germanic and Anglo-Saxon literary device of kenning. Kenning is usually atwo-word metaphorical name for something, such as “sea-road” for ocean (30, line 239). When neither element of thecompound is a true name of the object, it is a true kenning; when one element is not a true name, it is a half-kenning.

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